Travel has played an important role in our family life. Before marriage and a year after that, hubby and I have been in a long-distance relationship, and he traveled to see me. We traveled on vacation leave days to bond. During our early (childless) years in marriage, we did itinerary jam-packed travels to places in Southeast Asia and Europe. We travel to see our families as we work overseas.
Being parents did not stop us from traveling, although our travels became a bit more tame as we brought along our first child. Since becoming parents almost four years ago, we have taken our daughter to more than twenty-five flights to/within about ten countries, several inter-city trains and countless road trips.
At the age of one, my little one had shown courage riding the faluwa boat to and from Ivatan. We first witnessed her love for nature when she crawled on the rolling hills of Batanes on her first birthday – while smiling from ear to ear. She learned about the gecko and imitated its sound after our trip to my mother’s hometown in Iloilo and built her first sand castle in Boracay. She enthusiastically watched acrobats in The House of Dancing Water show in Macau. At the age of two, she delighted Russian tourists at Kremlin Square as she danced in her Matryoshka doll dress and followed a Russian squirrel out in the woods in Saint Petersburg. She showed amazement after having seen glaciers and “green skies” (the Aurora Borealis), made friends with nationalities of different ages – a British kid she met at a restaurant, an older Indian girl she met while waiting for a cable car ride, a granny host in a chalet in Alpbach, etc. At the age of three, she danced and clapped as a Czech band performed at the Charles Bridge and excitedly drank water from the fountains in Switzerland. In those travels, she had been both very amiable and grumpy. We’ve seen her best moods and worst tantrums, and learned the things she enjoys and hates doing. We’ve marked “everywhere” as breastfeeding stations – in a ski area (while I was in four layers of winter clothes!), in museums, restaurants, trains, airports, airplanes, etc. She never wanted to be on a stroller and enjoyed either being carried or ran after (spell exhaustion exercise). With her early travels, several people ask:
“Is traveling with a kid worth it?”
YES, it is definitely worth it.
Traveling with our kid is entirely different from those kid-free travel days but it has been very rewarding. Given the opportunities, we hope we can continue to travel as a family now that we have a new addition to the family.
Here are the reasons why we travel with our kid and why I think traveling with a kid is worth it:
ONE. Because traveling gives her practical experiences that complements the knowledge she gains from us, from her books and videos and from school.
Just like sending students to on-the-job trainings, traveling is a way to educate children and expand their little minds in ways that are not possible by just staying at home. As immense growth and development happens during the first years of a child’s life, we thought to supplement the “theories” with practical learnings.
As indicated in the Urban Child Institute’s website:
“Genes provide a blueprint for the brain, but a child’s environment and experiences carry out the construction. Genes allow the brain to fine-tune itself according to the input it receives from the environment. A child’s senses report to the brain about her environment and experiences, and this input stimulates neural activity. If the amount of input increases (for example the child sees, hears or experiences more often), synapses between neurons in that area will be activated more often. Repeated use strengthens a synapse. Synapses that are rarely used remain weak and are more likely to be eliminated in the pruning process. Synapse strength contributes to the connectivity and efficiency of the networks that support learning, memory, and other cognitive abilities. Therefore, a child’s experiences not only determine what information enters her brain, but also influence how her brain processes information.”
The world is an awesome classroom! We see a vast improvement on our little one every time we come back from traveling.
She has developed good navigation and social skills, a monster imagination, a photographic memory, good foresight abilities and appreciation for various art forms. She associates certain people and things with the places she has been to.
TWO. Because traveling is our way to bond and learn things with her in a different setting.
My little one was in a “house arrest” at least five days a week before she started her nursery classes two months ago. Though we do bond with her everyday after work, and though we go to the mall, the supermarket, the church and the playground on weekends, traveling bonds us in a certain way that’s different from our routinary activities. A once-in-a-while travel leaves us smiles long after we’ve come back from the holiday and makes us learn things and experience things for the first time together as a family. As she sees old photographs and videos, my little one grins as she recounts how she made mom so tired running circles while she was riding a carousel in a German Christmas market, how she walked and played on the snow, lived in a round cottage and ate in a castle in Legoland, among others.
THREE. Because traveling gives her opportunities for decision-making, bravery and confidence.
The spontaneity that comes with traveling provides several varied opportunities in training her to grow in character – in decision-making, braving situations that are a bit scary and outside of her comfort zone.
FOUR. She becomes a better traveler with each travel.
I remember the first time we rode a plane on the way home to the Philippines: my little one cried a lot, which was really embarrassing, especially that we were on a 9-hour flight. The second time she rode a plane, she did not cry at all, but crawled and played a lot on the plane floor. On her third, fourth, fifth and so on flights, she was comfortable on every take off and landing and just slept during the flight on my lap. On our last two flights, she just listened to the music while sometimes checking out the views from the plane window with her seat belt fastened on her own seat!
FIVE. Because traveling promotes her flexibility to adapt to different situations, which is a very important life skill.
At the age of 2, she was comfortable with sleeping in different rooms and beds. She was okay with riding trains, buses, cars and boats without being motion sick. She has developed the flexibility that I probably only learned when I was past my teenage years!
SIX. Because traveling with kids is never a dull moment.
Need I say more? 🙂
SEVEN. Because kids can help us see the way they see things.
Because of the slower pace of the travel when it’s done with kids, we tend to “soak” in a specific activity and notice more, even minute details of a place or activity. I remember how my girl told me how much trees there were along the highway in Germany (which was really greater than the trees in other places we’ve been to with her) and how she showed me the different-colored stone in a beach in Montreux. And because it took time for her to get over playing in a beach in Lucerne, we got to appreciate the sunset and how the sky transformed into various colors over a span of two hours (which we normally will just gaze at around minutes without her).
EIGHT. Because it is cheap to travel with children.
Can you beat the perks of a free plane/bus/boat/train ride for children below the age of 2 or the free tickets in almost every establishment, including hotels for toddlers? 🙂
NINE. Because kids make people more generous and compassionate. They are incredible “bridges” to other cultures.
My little one has received various kinds of presents from strangers in almost all of our travels – co-travelers, salesmen in markets, hotel personnel – just because she is a kid. 🙂 As she played with kids of other nationalities, we mingled with other kids’ parents (and grannies, too!).
TEN. She develops a sense of home and learns to live having only the basic things.
With our travels, she learns that she can have a great time without her toys and that she can, in fact, improvise on things available in the apartment/hotel room to play. She survives without electronics. Most importantly, she develops a sense of home as we notice how much she appreciates the people, her toys and other things at home every time we are back from travels.
ELEVEN. We get to go to “kids places”.
Disneyland, Legoland, among others! Yee ha! =)
TWELVE. Because in traveling, we show her that we value her personhood.
As adults, we assume that children won’t appreciate experiences as much as we will and so it will not be worth the efforts and expenses to travel with them. But just like us, kids crave adventures and new experiences. Traveling is a means of showing them that we value them when we give them opportunities for adventures and new experiences.
Granting we’ll continue to be blessed with opportunities for travel, the list of reasons why we’ll choose to travel with our now two kids would go on and on. And yeah, the more places they’ll go (literally), I know that they’ll go more places (figuratively). 🙂